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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Two independent Cambodian radio stations that allowed rare criticism of the government said Wednesday they are being forced to shut down, further limiting opportunities for political activity and expression ahead of next year's general election.

The radio stations announced the closures the same day the foreign ministry ordered foreign staff members of the Washington-based National Democratic Institute to leave the country within a week. The government accused of group, which gets US government support, of violating laws on nongovernmental organizations and taxes.

The institute, affiliated with the US Democratic Party, promotes democracy and election monitoring worldwide.

The moves appeared to be part of an effort to rein in media and public watchdogs ahead of the polls, in which the ruling party of Prime Minister Hun Sen is expected to face a strong challenge.


Hun Sen has held power for three decades, employing authoritarian methods in a nominally democratic framework. After being shocked by the strong challenge he faced in 2013's general election, he moved to undermine the opposition, using pliant courts and a rubber-stamp legislature to neutralize opposition leaders with a series of politically motivated lawsuits and criminal charges. Still, the opposition made gains in nationwide local elections this past June.